I’ve been thinking about what I am going to do with the NHL and hockey in general when the current lockout ends. Will I be back? Will I stay home and watch games? What will my reaction be? So far, I don’t know. I just know how I feel now.
I’m a hockey fan, through and through. I love the sport, and now that I’m on an actual (low level rec league) team, I love playing it more and more. I am less obsessed about it than I was five or six years ago, but it isn’t the lockout making that happen, that’s just life and moving on. I don’t care about any other sport, just hockey.
I know how I feel now. I skip over most of the hockey blog posts in my RSS reader, because they say the same thing. No news is no news. People are mad, they aren’t shy of expressing it, and I don’t want to keep feeding my own anger and disappointment in the NHL any more than I already have.
The lockout started on September 15th, with plenty of time before to watch the slow lurch towards nothing that we have now. The only moments of joy we have seen from the process has been the rise to stardom of the NHL Podium (I think it has earned a proper name, don’t you?).
And lets face it, that should be the point of being a hockey fan: the joy from watching the games, of being included in the celebrations, of the fun of the sport. If you are in it for the anger, then this is your shining moment of glory. I watch hockey for the fun and excitement, not to learn about salary caps and make whole and other business that may or may not be of consequence.
I’m not ignorant to the fact that money makes the puck go in the net. It always will, and there is little to be done about it. Even at my pitiful level of play, money drives what you can and can not do. My season, 22 games plus two guaranteed playoff games cost me $500. That doesn’t include skate sharpening, any new equipment needed (a new helmet set me back $129, due to a slight concussion earned at stick and puck time (which is $10 a session)), and I might be taking a hockey 101 class which will set me back around $150. Money drives hockey. It isn’t the “pick up the skates and head down to the frozen pond” of the early last century. Zombonis, freezing the ice, ice time, everything costs money, and is driven by it.
The NHL is a business and it’s driven by money on a scale that I can’t really comprehend, but does not understanding, nor wanting to, make me a bad fan? I like to be well informed, but I prefer my knowledge and information be about hockey, not capology (which is one letter added to apology) and contract issues. And certainly not tabloid fodder like making phone calls on stacks of cash (which I thought was funny) or who is dating who or any of the slow news day TMZ garbage we see touted as a hockey story.
Right now, the information is all about bad business decisions. It isn’t about hockey. It’s about who is more angry at the time, and who we should or should not be blaming. Everything is geared away from the sport of hockey. According to NHL.com, there were 894 players to take the ice in the NHL last season (and if this is wrong, please correct me in the comments). There are more than 585,000 members of USA Hockey alone (who is happy to post it’s financials online, unlike certain for profit leagues we could mention). But for some reason, I’m supposed to care and follow what’s happening in the NHL right now?
No thanks. It’s just making me more bitter and sad. It isn’t enhancing my life in the way that hockey should. It isn’t making me happy in the way the sport can and should. And it doesn’t feel like it’s adding any value to my life in the way actually playing hockey does. The big question is, will it do so once the season starts again? I don’t think I will know until then.
My hockey gear is lying on the floor waiting to go back in it’s bag after a hard skate the other day. I got danced around by two young players who had wheels and skills, and I worked hard to keep up and get the few good plays in that I could. I was invited onto a team for the summer that is three levels up from the one I am on now, which would destroy me (I’m 40, out of shape, and an ex-smoker). It was flattering. The hockey was hard but fun. That’s the way it should be. The value should be obvious. This lockout doesn’t provide me any value.